The Presidency Is One Thing, But…

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Congress
Congress, people, It's about Congress, too.

I know we’ve all been exhausted by the presidential election: Trump this, Clinton that, sexual assault this, emails that. It wears a body down and a mind down and we’re all about ready to choke ourselves (and our neighbors) just to be done with it all. No fancy links today. No clever attachments of Donald Trump in some cartoony picture. No sarcasm.

Today, I beg you to consider, to bear in mind, that the executive branch is only one of our three essential branches of government. You’re going to vote for president as you’re going to vote for president. What about the legislative and judicial branches?

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The answer is apparent when it comes to the judicial branch: presidents get to nominate federal judges and, most important, Supreme Court justices. It’s apparent that this is what is guiding the decisions of many voters, and theirs is a fair argument. Though I personally don’t think issues like Roe v. Wade or the Second Amendment will ever be overturned or repealed in our lifetimes, I understand the hesitance of some when weighing which candidates should be entrusted with making those nominations.

The branch most often overlooked, most often taken for granted, is the legislative. In the last off-year election two years ago, the Republicans achieved their largest majority since 1928 — 247 Republicans to 188 Democrats (this, despite 25 Republicans retiring from their seats, compared to 16 Democrats).

The GOP hates Clinton more than Obama.

The result — the 114th Congress — was one of the most restrictive, obstructionist and least productive legislative sessions in American history. The American voters — those who voted — handed control of the branch to a party that would rather shut the government down than support initiatives — any of them — approved of by the president. We saw roadblock after roadblock after roadblock after roadblock, and a toddler-level stubbornness to even debate the issues of the day. This while our representatives made $174,000 a year, with full benefits for life, working about 139 days. We’re talking about an institution that has around a 10% approval rating — and close to a 96% reelection rate.

I’m proud of the majority of the work that President Obama did in his two terms. My biggest beef with him was how he handled the first two years of his first term; I think he bought into his own hype and truly thought everybody would come to the negotiating table in order to hunker down and get things done. He kept trying to compromise, or at least offering compromise, and wound up wasting two years with a Democratic Senate and House — and he has been fighting the GOP-led Congress ever since. How much more could he have achieved for progressive politics if he’d had the backing of at least one of the legislative houses?

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Please, please consider your down-ticket races.

But this is Monday morning quarterbacking at best. If it’s even possible to imagine such a thing, the GOP hates Hillary Clinton more than they hate Barack Obama. Already there are threats to indefinitely stall future Supreme Court nominees, let alone consider any of Clinton’s policy initiatives. (In a quick tangent regarding the Supreme Court, I have a secret wish for President-elect Clinton. I wish for her to say “Judge Merrick Garland? Thank you for your patience. That’s all we’ll need from you.” Then she turns around and, with a strong Democratic majority in the Senate, nominates the most fire-breathing liberal sitting on a bench anyway. Do I think this is how the judicial branch should work? Absolutely not. But I’m a liberal scorned and my vengeance is mighty.)

There are going to be dozens, if not hundreds, of op-eds and columns today begging you to vote. You can add this to the stack. I ask you to please, please consider your down-ticket races. If you are going to tweet #imwithher, then make sure you give the next president the allies that she’ll need to be effective. Let’s not only resoundingly reject Donald Trump and his ideology, but let’s reject the party that allowed him to come within arm’s reach of the most powerful office in America. Vote.